I was in general, as usual, unprepared for the trip. I simply didn't know what was coming and what to expect from the trip. I didn't even know that Wakatobi is famous for its water sport, such as diving and snorkelling. This trip is pretty special for me, because it's now, by far, the most eastern part of Indonesia I've ever been to (previous record held by Makassar, and mind that I've not visited Bali yet, i.e. Balivirgin, T.T) and also, I first heard about Wakatobi from this very relaxing song by Budi Doremi, titled Asmara Nusantara (check it out: https://youtu.be/-tLKXO7J4lY ). Never have I thought that I would one day visit this place called Wakatobi.
Furthermore, I have to shamefully admit that, despite having travelled to a few number of the popular cities in Europe, I have an extremely bad track record of travelling around Indonesia. It's been a shame, as in my instances have shown, that a measureable number of foreigners I've met here, have been to more places in Indonesia than me. In the most recent conversation I had with my landlord, he told me of his adventure in the past, travelling in Indonesia. He tried to recall one of the cities he went to. I immediately exclaimed 'Bali!'. Within less than a second, he brushed me off, saying that it was not Bali he was talking about as Bali is too popular and that everybody must've been to Bali before! I simply nodded in agreement...
This trip also came in the right time as I've finished reading Elisabeth Pisani's book "Indonesia Etc" telling her story about her travel in some of the remotest place in Indonesia. It's a good book, I really recommend this book as she told a great deal of story about places in Indonesia that you might never visit in your lifetime.
My initial thought of this place told me that it must be an isolated place, with very bad infrastructure, jungle everywhere, dispersed villages, etc. As it turned out, it is not as bad as I have thought, and in fact they now have a pretty good infrastructure. Okay, let me tell the story in detail, as much as I can recall from my direct experience and conversation with the locals.
I have to put a disclaimer first of all, that this is my honest view of Wakatobi, as someone raised in a city far away from the eastern part of Indonesia, constantly bombarded by local knowledge (very often false) that made me assume something about any place that is in general far away from the main island.
|Map of Indonesia|
|Flight route to Wakatobi|
Wakatobi mainly consists of four big islands: Wangiwangi, Kaledupa, Tomia, Binongko. The island I visited is Wangiwangi. To reach that Wangiwangi (also referred to as Wanci), I took the only flight that goes there, operated by WingsAir, subsidiary of LionAir, from Makassar. The aircraft is propeller-powered aircraft which made me so excited when I saw it! I seem to have the impression that this is not the first time I took it but it definitely is the first one I had in the last ten years! It is NOISY but AWESOME despite only 10 kg of checked in baggage is allowed!
|The cargo is loaded from the front door, passengers get into the plane from the rear door|
|Can't resist the temptation of taking picture of the propeller when its running at full speed.|
From Makassar, the plane flew to Kendari (about 55 mins) for a short stop to refuel, and then it flew to Wanci (about 45 mins). The name of the airport in Wanci is Matahora airport. There is a funny story from one of my friends that travel there together, he called the hotel's number asking for direction from the airport to the hotel. The person then answered that the hotel would be in charge of transporting us from the airport to the hotel and back to the airport again. My friend was then a bit confused because we have never given any information about our flight and continued explaining his confusion to the person. The person then replied telling my friend that there is only one flight that flies there everyday. So they always know what time we are going to arrive there. I'm not sure if as of this moment, there is only one flight per day. Imagine that the airport operator working for few hours, taking care of arrival and departure, and then go back to the daily life activities everyday, it's so weird, in contrast to the typical activity of a busy airport where the operator job probably runs almost 24 hours.
We spent about 3 days 2 nights in Wanci. It's definitely not enough, we need more! The first day we arrived there, it was about noon, full flight. The airport is surprisingly new, I could still see and smell the new layer of asphalt. Expectedly, there is only one aircraft there, the one we took. It stopped in front of the airport entrance. Once we walked into the building, the baggage conveyor belt is directly in sight, and the exit is just right in front of it. There's nothing much there, except for few chairs to sit on and a decently sized map of Wakatobi.
|The main road|
|Wow2: view from the front of my room. Not a swimming pool!|
I did not know what was to come... It was extremely tiring and hard to hang on to it! I was literally hanging on to my life! On the first occasion, there were two of us, and I was holding on to the ladder with my hand. It was not so bad. On the second occasion, there were three of us, and I was in the front line, hanging on the rope only... It was really crazy, as the wave kept hitting on me, I tried to use the breathing equipment to breathe, but it was to no avail. On the third occasion, I thought I was already quite well trained in it, I decided to hold on to the ladder with my hand and my body. There were two of us. The third time didn't go so well too. hahaha. In the end, I think I just have to train my muscle more!
|After diving: as you notice, I'm not properly dressed for the occasion. Luckily they need us to wear the diving suit anyway. So I was saved by the grace.|
The next day, we decided to rent a car to travel around the city. I think it was like 500K rupiah for 6 hours, not so bad as there are 5 of us and it was considerably cheaper than diving and other stuff. He started bringing us to beaches in Wanci. Then the driver actually offered us a chance to snorkel, at another beach with a much cheaper price than the one offered by the resort. We took the chance. Of course, cheaper price comes with equipment that is probably not so hygienic as compared to the one that the resort offers (but we don't really know as well if the resort's equipment is as good and hygienic as well, so yeah..). In addition, this time, there is no guide as well, so we have to go on our own. Luckily, one of us has done snorkelling before and snorkelling is probably not as technically demanding as compared to diving. I honestly enjoyed snorkelling more than diving. With the breathing piece and a safety float, we are all set to go. I saw more beautiful corals and cute fishes in snorkelling to be honest. It was awesome, if it was not for the fact that we haven't had our lunch and two of our friends were still on the beach waiting for us, we would have snorkelled more!
After snorkelling, the driver brought us to a restaurant called Restoran Wisata. It's famous for its restaurant site that is above water. Right below the dining table is a direct access to water (if you jump and obviously you don't want to because you're there to eat and I don't actually know how you're going to get up anyway). You can sit on the surrounding support, with you legs hanging above the water. Food is nice, seafood is obviously the way to go in this place. Price is still decent as well.
After our late lunch, the driver brought us to Bajo Mola village. Bajo tribe (google it for more detail!) is a tribe that in the past lived in the ocean. At some point, they settled around Wanci village. They are famous for their houses built on the water.
The driver told me that the Bajo tribe will continue living in this way, as apparently they get sick easily if they live on the land. Then we were brought to Kontamale. The driver told me that it's 'air dalam batu' or water in a stone. I didn't understand what he meant by it. What we saw was a natural pool surrounded by water, with locals happy bathing in it. As it turned out, it's a water cave and people do actual diving to explore the inner of the cave.
|Bajo Mola's houses on water|
|Bajo Mola's houses, the wooden walkway is apparently quite fragile as I realised after using it. We were lucky that we didn't fall down during our walk there.|
We travelled to a fishmarket. The plan was to buy some fresh fished from the market and asked the resort restaurant to cook them for us. It was good. I forgot the name of one of the fishes we ate, but it has blue bones!
Our last stop before we head back to Patuno is Wasabi Nua, a small restaurant situated on a stone separated from the mainland by water. It's connected by a small wooden bridge though, making it all more exotic. We were there watch the sunset. It was a bit cloudy that day, but we enjoyed the view. I had STMJ (susu telor madu jahe or milk egg honey ginger) as my drink (yes, drink). A weird combination that I've never had before.
It was unfortunately the last night in wanci, I wish we have more time there as we would be able to snorkel and dive more. They actually offered us to dive with sharks, and also see doplhins! But all good things will come to an end.
The next day, we departed from wakatobi in the morning. As usual, I never learned from my past experience. I initially assumed that the procedure at the airport would be quite simple. Who would want to invest in xray machines and all other stuffs just for an airport that serves one flight per day anyway. The thought was unfounded. They have two X-ray machines in the airport. The machines obviously worked properly as we were caught bringing shells we found on the beach. We didn't know it was illegal to bring shells from the beach as apparently the region is under the protection of the national park. The local people obviously didn't know about it because we did actually ask if it's allowed to bring the shells back and they said yes to us.
So, yeah, that marks the end of my wakatobi trip, will want to return there again some day. It was good.